Poetic Spurn: Spurn Autumn Arts Festival, 19th & 20th October

Part of my role with YWT at Spurn has involved assisting with the Spurn Autumn Arts Festival, now in its second year. On Thursday 17th October, Andy and I were invited onto Joe Hakim’s Culture Show on BBC Radio Humberside to promote the festival, and there was plenty to talk about, with a range of events taking place over the weekend in the Discovery Centre including our Poetic Spurn programme alongside trips to Spurn Lighthouse in the Unimog, live music  from local folk musicians and Beverley Pipe Band, and talks from Spurn’s resident artists Chris Heard and Sarah Dew.

On Saturday, I ran a drop-in poetry postcard workshop ‘Hello From Spurn Poetry Postcards’ in the marquee. Participant’s contributions will form part of the poetry exhibition in November. Participants were invited to compose an acrostic poem inspired by their visit(s) to Spurn nature reserve, pin it to the postcard board and make a copy to send out into the world to help share and conserve those wild words for nature.

We also held two poetry readings on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. On Saturday, three Easington Academy pupils – Sophie, Mathilda, and Curtis – came along with their families and with Mrs Verity, Head of School, to read their Spurn poems on stage. They were absolute stars and received a well-deserved round of applause. Two locally-based poets, Dave Osgerby and Shane Blades, also read at the event, and it was a real pleasure to meet them and hear some of their poems.

On Sunday, we had readings from more Poetic Spurn Poets – Julie Corbett, Liz Holt, Glynis Charlton and Gina Hobbs, who shared the poems they wrote during the ‘Rewilding Our Writing’ workshop earlier in October. It was great to hear the finished poems and some of their other work, and fantastic that they were able to come over to the event. Afterwards, we finally had that sit down with coffee and cake we’ve been planning.

The next event will be a project celebration on Wednesday 20th November (4-6pm) at Spurn Discovery Centre, when participants will come together to share their Poetic Spurn poems and launch the exhibition (free event, all welcome).

Poetic Spurn: ‘Rewilding Our Writing’ Workshop, 5 October

Are we losing the words to describe our wild encounters in the natural world? One of the key principles of rewilding is the aim of reconnecting people with the wonder of nature, as well as restoring and conserving natural processes, ecosystems and endangered species. The aim of today’s workshop was to explore the value of ‘wild words’ and writing in a wild setting to inspire an emotional and enduring connection with the natural world.

Rewilding Our Writing at Spurn L-R: Liz Holt; Julie Corbett; Clint Wastling; Gina Hobbs. Picture credit: Aly Stoneman

I met my fellow ‘wild poets’ in Spurn Discovery Centre’s Education Room, where we introduced ourselves over tea and biscuits: Hull poets Julie Corbett and Liz Holt; Gina Hobbs, editor at Holderness Gazette; and Clint Wastling, a Holderness-based writer, who introduced some of the gorgeous language of geology into our discussions. It was great to put faces to names, as we were all emailing back and forth before the event. Julie, who I first contacted through New Writing North, runs Hull Stanza and has been amazingly supportive of the Poetic Spurn project, putting me in touch with a host of local writers and organisations.

Spurn Rewilding Our Writing

Rewilding Our Writing at Spurn. Photo credit: Aly Stoneman

We started with a writing icebreaker, writing tweet length, haiku or acrostic poems inspired by favourite words for nature that we each brought along. Andrew Mason, Heritage Officer at Spurn, led a guided walk around part of the site, looking at the plants, habitat and tidal forces at Spurn. After warming up with hot drinks and lunch in the Discovery Centre cafe, we headed back outside to do some writing at different spots around the reserve, before coming together to share our work and discuss our experiences at the end of the session. There is real joy in granting yourself time to write, and everyone seemed to get a lot from the day. I’m looking forward to hearing the finished pieces at Spurn Autumn Arts Festival (Saturday and Sunday 19th and 20th of October).

Thanks also to Holderness Gazette for the excellent article about the day.

Rewilding Our Writing, Saturday 5 October

Rewilding Our Writing, Saturday 5 October 11am-2.30pm


Poetic Spurn: Wild Truths on National Poetry Day, Thursday 3 October 

Andy Mason and Aly Stoneman with Easington pupils.

This week I have been working onsite at Spurn and in the nearby village of Easington with Heritage Officer Andrew Mason from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. 

Andy and I had a brilliant National Poetry Day, working with Easington CofE Primary Academy pupils to create poems celebrating the natural world, inspired by The Lost Words, a stunning book of poetry and illustrations by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. The pupils welcomed us into school by reading us poems, and were keen to point out a roe deer, visible from the classroom window.

We interpreted this year’s National Poetry Day theme of ‘truth’ as bearing witness to environmental issues that affect us all.  Years 1-6 Pupils wrote and performed poems inspired by Spurn, following a school visit to the nature reserve earlier this term. We wrote list poems about beach cleans and acrostic poems evoking plants, animals and special places we saw at Spurn. The children also shared their work with the rest of the school in assembly and with their families, and made audio recordings and videos of themselves performing their poems.

Easington CofE Primary Academy Pupils, National Poetry Day workshop.

Mrs Kerry Verity, Head of School, Easington CofE Primary Academy: ‘The children have been very engaged and inspired by their visit to Spurn Point and then having the opportunity to produce their own poems working with Aly. They have been very creative and their range of vocabulary and expression has increased as a result of their experience. They have loved the project.’

We also had an excellent write up in the Holderness gazette.

Welcome: Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Aly Stoneman is a poet and AHRC-funded Midlands4Cities PhD researcher writing about the British coast, focusing on changes related to sea-level, erosion and other coastal processes.

She was founding poetry editor at LeftLion Magazine, promoting Nottingham’s poetry scene, and a winner of the Buxton Poetry Prize. Aly has read at Copenhagen International Poetry Festival and Ledbury, and her poems recently appeared in Liquidscapes, New Walk, Under The Radar, and Dawn of the Unread. Lost Lands, her debut pamphlet, explored personal interactions with the natural world.

Aly is based with our team at Spurn Discovery Centre, developing a pilot mini-programme of poetry activities and events during October and November as part of Spurn Autumn Arts Festival and programme. Writing workshops in the community during October focused on reconnecting with nature through the power of language and ‘re-wilding our writing’, taking place in Easington Primary Academy on National Poetry Day and at Spurn Discovery Centre.

The project will culminate in an exhibition at Spurn Lighthouse from the 23rd of November until March 2020 (open weekends 11am-3pm). A launch event and preview will take place on Wednesday 20th November 4-6pm at Spurn Discovery Centre, with readings from project participants. The event is free and open to everyone.

If you live in the East Riding Area and would be interested in contributing a poem inspired by Spurn to the poetry postcard exhibition, “Hello from Poetic Spurn”, Aly would love to hear from you! Please contact her directly at alyson.stoneman2007@my.ntu.ac.uk.


Poet at Spurn

Rewilding Our Writing, Saturday 5 October

Rewilding Our Writing, Saturday 5 October 11am-2.30pm

Poet at Spurn – yes, that’s me! I am the latest in a long line of writers and artists to have been inspired and captivated by the open landscape, massive skies and seascapes of Spurn. The first time I visited the area, a couple of years ago, I was fascinated by the rich biodiversity and history of the nature reserve, the Humber estuary and surrounding area, and the way the land-and-waterscape shifts almost minute to minute. I’m a PhD researcher based in the School of English at Nottingham Trent University, writing a critical and creative thesis looking at representations of coastal change in contemporary poetry. Where better to base myself than Spurn? Yorkshire Wildlife Trust kindly agreed, and over the next few months I will be working with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Spurn Discovery Centre to run a pilot poetry project as part of their Autumn Arts Festival. (So exciting!)

If you live in the East Riding Area and would be interested in contributing a poem inspired by Spurn and the local area/coastline/wildlife, or reading at an event, I’d love to hear from you! Please contact me directly at alyson.stoneman2007@my.ntu.ac.uk

The programme launches with a poetry workshop at Easington Primary Academy on Thursday 3 October – National Poetry Day. Here is an outline of the public poetry events in the programme (October and November 2019):

Poetic Landscapes of Spurn: ‘Rewilding Our Writing’ Poetry Workshop
Saturday 5th October, 11am-2.30pm (Suitable for ages 16+)
Join Yorkshire Wildlife Trust poet Aly Stoneman at Spurn Discovery Centre for a friendly, informal poetry workshop inspired by the coastal habitat and wildlife at Spurn. Please bring a couple of your favourite words for nature, which could include regional and local dialect names for creatures and plants. The session will include an outdoor writing activity, weather permitting!
£6.00/£4.00 Non-members/members
Please visit our website and book on 01904 659570 or online: https://www.ywt.org.uk/events/2019-10-05-poetic-landscapes-spurn

Spurn Arts Festival at Spurn Discovery Centre, Spurn Road, Kilnsea, Hull HU12 0UH
Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th October, Spurn Discovery Centre 11.30-4.30pm (£6)
A weekend of live music, arts and activities for families. Includes a drop-in family poetry workshop with Spurn’s resident poet Aly Stoneman 11.30-12.30pm on Saturday and poetry readings from Poetic Landscapes of Spurn project by Aly Stoneman and guests from 3.15-4pm on Saturday and 2pm-2.45pm on Sunday.Please visit our website and book on 01904 659570 or online: https://www.ywt.org.uk/events/2019-10-19-spurn-autumn-arts-festival-day-1

Poetic Landscapes of Spurn Celebration Event and Exhibition Launch, 4-6pm, Weds 20 November at Spurn Discovery Centre
Poetry Readings and film showing from Poetic Landscapes of Spurn pilot poetry programme, including work by Easington CoE Primary Academy pupils. Includes launch of the Poetic Landscapes of Spurn exhibition at Spurn Lighthouse from November 2019–March 2020. Refreshments available. Advance booking required.

The project is supported by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership and the AHRC, and Nottingham Trent University.

I’d just like to say a quick thanks to YWT (particularly Andrew Mason, my line manager) and Mrs Verity at Easington Primary Academy for being so welcoming, supportive and enthusiastic – I’m not going to want to leave (no, really. Going to have to drag me out of here!). Thanks also to Sophie Koranteng at New Writing North and Imelda Malkin at Hornsea Library (East Riding Libraries) for your advice and help.

A drop in the ocean

I know my writing (and, indeed, my life) is just “a drop in the ocean”, ‘but what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?’ (David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas). On this day of global Climate Strike protests, I’d like to share one of my poems about sea level rise that has just been published in Liquidscapes by Art.Earth

Aly Stoneman

Start at sea level and hit the up arrow –

dark blue engulfs Great Yarmouth
and Poole, then London, awash
from Canvey Island to Canary Wharf.

Or navigate home, reckon
the sea’s surge
over Domesday farmland,

outflanking you
click by click
to the threshold of your house,

your tongue slipping
on names sunk in sediment
and brackish water.

Your home means nothing to that future

of eroding cliffs, toppling pylons,
tree stumps at low tide;
decaying roads to no-place.

The sea sends
harbinger gulls inland.
We tread the high paths.

At sixty metres, we’re islands of National Park.


Note: ‘Sea level rise will continue beyond 2100 even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C […]’ (IPCC Special Report, 2018) and could rise 0.5m-2m this century, depending on global emissions. See also: ‘What the World Would Look Like if All the Ice Melted’, National Geographic, September 2013. The potential effects of global sea level change on coastal areas and communities can be seen on this interactive map: http://www.floodmap.net

Travel Writing Podcast with Tim Hannigan

Tim Hannigan and I discuss our relationships with the travel genre as practitioners and researchers in this podcast for the Centre for Travel Writing Studies.

You can listen here: https://soundcloud.com/user-196724481

This episode features travel and history writer Tim Hannigan, and poet Aly Stoneman, both current Midlands4Cities-funded PhD students and postgraduate associates of the Centre for Travel Writing Studies at Nottingham Trent University.Tim and Aly talk about their own relationships with the travel genre – as practitioners and researchers – and discuss the ethical issues involved in writing about “elsewhere” and representing the travellee. They also take a look at the “new nature writing” and consider its connection to travel writing, and offer short readings from their own work.

Poetry and Place at Nottingham Poetry Festival TUESDAY 30 APRIL 6.30PM – 8PM

I’m really looking forward to Nottingham Poetry Festival later this month 26 April – 5 May! Sue Dymoke has kindly invited me to take part in the following event:
Poetry and Place
Five Leaves Bookshop, 14a Long Row, NG1 2DH
Alan Baker, Sue Dymoke and Aly Stoneman read poems about near and far-flung places and talk about the place of place in their poetry.
Pay on the door or through our website £3 including refreshments

Leicester Travel Talk, Friday 12 April: Hikers, Hippies and Horrible Histories – La Gomera


La Gomera Talk April 2019If you are free and in Leicester on Friday morning, I’d love to see you. I’m looking forward to giving my second presentation at the fun, friendly and informative Leicester Travel Talks about La Gomera: ‘Hikers, Hippies and Horrible Histories –The Intriguing Island of La Gomera (Canary Islands)’ from 10.15-12 noon in the Satta Hashem Hall.

Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir St LE1 6QL. It’s £4.50 on the door. http://traveltalksleicester.co.uk


FB Livestream of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature poetry event on World Poetry Day (Thursday, 21st March 2019)

I’m taking part in a poetry event hosted by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Nottingham City of Literature to celebrate World Poetry Day on the 21st March.

World Poetry day, declared by UNESCO in 1999, is an occasion to honour poets and celebrate one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression. This year, UNESCO Cities of Literature Network has committed to promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal: Gender Equality, by creating a platform for women to express their ideas and experiences of gender issues. This year’s Nottingham City of Literature event will be supporting this goal by promoting and listening to the voices of 12 female poets, who will share poems reflecting on all stages and ages of being a woman.

The event will see the talented women poets performing at NTU’s Clifton Campus library, surrounded by the books that have nourished their writing. UNESCO aim to ‘build a better world with words’ and the decision to use the NTU library very much reflects their fundamental belief in libraries as places to foster literacy and education. Many of the poets are students or alumni of our MA in Creative Writing and PhD candidates who contribute to the rich literary research culture of the university. The performers include Becky Cullen, Panya Banjoko, Tuesday Shannon and Victoria Zoe, as well as NTU Writer in Residence Bridie Squires.

The event will be live streamed on the Nottingham City of Literature Facebook page, in a unique way of engaging new audiences with cultural events in the city. This will allow the poets of Nottingham to reach audiences who are unsure about attending live events, as well as poetry enthusiasts from further afield.

Join in via the Nottingham City of Literature Facebook page from 7pm on the 21st March,